Victory at league leaders slips away from Norwich
- Credit: Andy Micklethwaite
Norwich always knew their top-of-the-table clash in Essex would be a test – and so it proved.
Playing down the slope in the first half Norwich started well, forcing a knock-on from the kick-off. Having won the scrum they attacked down the blind side, Chris Parrott kicked through but the ball was touched down for a Chelmsford drop out.
Both sides were determined to play a running game and Chelmsford launched some useful counter-attacks forcing Norwich to defend. However, the Norwich lineout was functioning well, enabling the ball to be cleared from danger on several occasions.
The Norwich backs were playing well with good breaks coming from Richie Rhodes and Michael Campton-Smith, but with some strong defence it was proving difficult to break through.
The home side were almost the first team to score when a couple of missed tackles saw them breach the Norwich defence only for the last pass to be knocked on. Shortly afterwards they were awarded a penalty for not rolling away after a tackle to take a 3-0 lead.
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The game moved back downfield as Norwich launched a series of attacks with some great interplay from both forwards and backs forcing the home side to concede a number of penalties.
From one such incident Jonny O'Brien kicked to touch, captain Gareth Leake secured the ball from the lineout, the forwards drove on and another penalty was awarded to Norwich. Opting for a scrum the pack drove over the line, where Lawrence Austin touched down and O'Brien converted to give the visitors a 7-3 lead.
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At this stage the Chelmsford No8 was invited to take a 10-minute rest for a professional foul. The hosts' only response at this stage was another long-range penalty from their number 10, who had an excellent kicking game throughout the day.
The Norwich pack were having an excellent day as well though and repeatedly drove their opponents off the ball.
They had another opportunity to score when awarded a scrum close to the line and once again Austin touched down, the kick being missed, for a 12-6 Norwich lead.
The visitors definitely had the upper hand but a poor off-load in the middle of the field presented the ball to Chelmsford, who broke through to score and then scored again immediately from the kick-off, when some rare poor tackles enabled their fly-half to stroll in.
With both kicks converted, it meant the half finished with the home side leading 20-12 and playing down the slope in the second half.
Dougie Greenwood was making some useful drives in the centre of the field after the break and almost broke through before Norwich were brought back for a penalty to the home side, which was cleared.
Any Chelmsford attacks were being dealt with and, from a lineout on the Norwich 22, Simon Derby stole the ball enabling Parrott to clear the lines, the team worked their way back upfield and won a penalty which was converted by O'Brien.
Leake was next to score when some good interplay down the blind side between Dave Micklethwaite, Campton-Smith and Parrott put him in to score under the posts for 20-20.
The visitors had the upper hand and Greenwood finished off a great move to take a short pass and crashed through several tackles to score.
With Norwich now 27-20 ahead, the game was running away from Chelmsford but the hosts that continued to attack and their pressure finally told when they broke through to tie the scores.
Norwich were then penalised on the 10-metre line, enabling the Chelmsford No10 to cap an excellent game by converting the last kick of the game.